Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fantasy, Swords, Witches and Ghosts

Autumn: Aftermath
David Moody
Dunne Griffin, Mar 12 2012, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312570026

One nanosecond ago everything was fine; a moment later 99% of the human race died; however over the next three months the dead failed to stay dead as they returned as the mindless indead with an innate instinct to kill the 1% of human survivors. Several of the 1% survivors reach the remote island of Cormansey; access exclusively by air ad boat, making this isolated rock zombie free for the fifty-one humans including a pregnant women. They helicopter to Chadwick to obtain needed supplies.

Another of the 1% made it to fortified Cheatham Castle. These twenty-one survivors go to Chadwick for supplies too. The two human groups collide as the castle dwellers believe the islanders are encroaching on their territory of Chadwick. The islanders invite the Chadwick crew to join them on the island as there is strength in numbers. Many want to go but their leaders refuse to give up their power. As tension mounts, the two small pockets of humans seem ready to war with each other instead of allying against the greater threat.

The final Autumn urban fantasy (see Autumn: Disintegration and Autumn: The City) is a great finish to a fabulous zombie thriller. The underlying premise is that those on power obsess with remaining in power at any cost even to their own group’s survival. With a deep look at the human need to dominate or subordinate, readers will relish this entry as only the strong survive by using the weaker as fodder.
Harriet Klausner

The Scar
Sergey Dyachenko and Marina Dyachenko; translated by Elinor Huntington
Tor, Feb 28 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765329936

In Kavarren, being a member of the highly adulated elite guard, Lieutenant Egert gets whatever he desires. He wants Toria who is engaged to Dinar, but that lesser male is no impediment to arrogant Egert as he kills his rival in a duel. Observing the atrocity, the Wanderer defiantly “names” Egert as a bully and forces him into a duel. The Wanderer cuts Egert’s face leaving him with a painful scar; while his arrogance is drained into cowardice.

Fearful, he deserts his regiment, his family and his friends. Egert reaches the city where grieving Toria lives with her father Luayan the mage university dean. Whereas his daughter loathes Dinar’s killer, Luayan provides him shelter. Every time Egert looks at Toria, he feels shame. He needs her forgiveness before he can grant himself the same. Egert soon faces the Servants of Lash; though he prefers flight Toria’s visage makes him stay while a plague ravages the city. Finally Egert senses he will face the judgment of the Wanderer but feels that is easier than the judgment of Toria.

The Scar
is a terrific allegorical second chance at redemption and life sword and sorcery thriller. Character driven by Egert and Toria, the deep storyline focuses on the pair’s lost zest for living following his atrocity. Although the enigmatic Wanderer never quite comes across as to who or what he is (perhaps because this is his second book of a four novel series in which the first entry has not been translated as far as I can tell). Still fans will relish this strong soul saving saga as the prime protagonists must find a way to forgive if they are to save a city under siege. Harriet Klausner

All Things Wicked
Karina Cooper
Avon, Jan 31 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062046932

Juliet Carpenter the witch fell in love with Caleb Leigh but he betrayed her and killed her Coven of the Unbinding witches who treated him as family. Two obsessions keep Juliet going; she needs to know why but even stronger is a need to avenge what he did to her and her “kin”.

One year later Juliet finds Caleb in a seedy motel, just like the demons he runs from always do. Her compulsion to kill him supersedes her desire to know why so she goes after him with a knife, which she plunges into him. Caleb survives but feels overwhelmed by the guilt of the wicked thing he did though his motive was to protect his sibling Cordelia and himself from her coven’s power grabbing sacrifice of them. When adversaries arrive with dire intentions of abducting the girl and killing her ally, Caleb, who still loves his Jules, knows this is the beginning of his last stand to keep his pledge of insuring the witch who owns his wicked heart is safe as long as what is left of his declining brain stays rational.

The third Dark Mission romantic urban fantasy (see Lure of the Wicked and Blood of the Wicked) expands the incredible Cooper universe beyond the New Seattle environs in a stunning coming of age thriller. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will relish the romance between two people struggling with an inconvenient truth of being in love at a time when both should be in hate (at him). Wickedly dark, Karina Cooper provides a powerful futuristic twisting tale. Harriet Klausner

The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Simone St. James
NAL, Mar 6 2012, $14.00
ISBN: 9780451235688

In 1922 London, ghost researcher Alistair Gelles hires Sarah Piper as his temporary assistant. He explains to her that his permanent assistant Matthew Ryder is visiting his pregnant sister and that the patron Mrs. Clare asks for a female to get the ghost of the late serving girl Maddy, who hung herself, to leave.

Sarah enters the barn alone. She finds the barn on fire. She escapes, but once outside the barn is fine. She tells Alistair and Matthew who arrives what happened. Later she sees the scars on Matthew’s back, but he misunderstands her reaction as he assumes his war injuries horrify her. Instead she thinks he is beautiful. The team learns Maddy arrived battered and mute at the Clare farm when she was twelve. Sarah asks Maddy about her suicide note in which she said “I will kill them.” Later Sarah and Matthew have sex, but afterward he apologizes, which hurts her. The trio enters the barn. Matthew sees Maddy; Sarah senses Maddy is near; and Alistair hears music. Maddy tells Sarah that three men violated her as a little girl and she wants revenge. She orders Sarah to find them and her gravesite. Mrs. Clare smashes an oil lamp causing a fire. Matthew rescues Alistair who thinks he is back in combat. Sarah and Matthew investigate when the first unexplained (except by an avenging ghost) murder occurs.

This is an entertaining Post WWI British haunted barn thriller in which the researchers are fully developed, the ghost seems real, and the townsfolk enhance the enjoyable story line. Although the prime romantic subplot between the two research assistants feels forced and unnecessary, fans will appreciate Simone St. James’s well written early twentieth century ghost story. Harriet Klausner

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